About Time for Comments @Medium #CommentCrisis

Interesting piece tweeted by Medium Picks.

Not fully digested. But my view of unmoderated comment threads on every news story or campaigning web page going is that these are always skewed by the cynical who believe that taking the hard line on any topic is the way to get noticed and failing that sarcastic ridicule will do instead. They wouldn’t think of themselves as trolls by any technical definition, but that’s what they are, driving intelligent and balanced debate – faster than greased lightning – off the very pages where they would be most valuable. It quickly ends up as polarised lowest common denominator stuff, a race to the bottom.

There’s more in this piece, but I agree with this gist:

A single format will no longer serve
for the multiple contexts
where comments once made sense.

Serious web media need to think about how to marshal different comment environments for different motives, and as I said many times, ensure any moderated threads associated with their specific pages adopt a level of “respect” that involves reading, understanding and constructive synthesis before disagreeing, criticising and worse under cover of rhetorical games. Or, ultimately treat all reactions as correspondence – letters to the editor – to be subject to the site’s own editorial policy. It might not be so bad, but the success of celebrity comics – and celebrity scientists who wish they were – on twitter and facebook and comment-is-free seems to reinforce the idea that everyone thinks it’s their job to be cruelly witty on ever topic, whereas that’s a job for the professionals. As I always say, we can’t all be court jester at the same time, we’d get nothing worthwhile done.

(Quite different for any media channel where fun and provocation are designed for public reaction and amusement or “gossip” and “hits” – good luck to them – but any channel with serious communication objectives needs to consider the “comment crisis”. Building engagement is more than  a numbers game – quality matters.)

Two other significant points in there – Popular Science being one of the on-line journals seeing the need for proper moderation, and the idea of an independent moderation service to apply your policy, ie doing it right is worth significant effort – Polygon Guideline Enforcers – your rules of engagement as I’ve called them before.

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